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US approves bird flu vaccine: The US Food and Drug Administration approved a human vaccine against the H5N1 influenza virus on 17 April, marking the first such approval in the United States. Until a vaccine tailored to the pandemic strain of the virus is developed and produced this vaccine may give limited protection should the H5N1 virus transfer from person to person. The vaccine, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, will only be available through public health officials for approved 18-64 year olds who are at increased risk of exposure to H5N1.
Scottish charity offers funding for pain research: Medical Research Scotland is inviting applications for research projects on pain relief after it recently received an anonymous legacy of almost £500000 (€740000; $1m), which stipulated the money be used for research into pain relief. Grants for research projects will be to a maximum of £150000. See www.medicalresearchscotland.org.uk.
Prosecutors drop appeal against man cleared of helping in suicide: Public prosecutors in the Netherlands have dropped their appeal against the acquittal of philosopher Ton Vink, of the suicide support group Horizon, who had been charged with helping a 53 year old woman commit suicide. Prosecutors could not prove his actions crossed the line between offering support and actively directing her actions. Concerns have been raised that the judgment could result in more assisted suicide (BMJ 2007;334:228-9, doi: 10.1136/bmj.39108.711794.DB).
Psychotic psychiatrists would prefer atypical antipsychotics: A survey of psychiatrists' preferences for treatment should they become mentally ill shows that for psychosis atypical antipsychotics were generally favoured, with risperidone getting most votes. The survey, which had a response rate of 59% from 921 psychiatrists, shows that psychotherapy and antidepressants were both endorsed as treatments for mild to moderate depression, and citalopram, fluoxetine, and venlafaxine were the three preferred antidepressants. Electroconvulsive treatment received the backing of a large majority of psychiatrists, particularly for severe mood disorder (Scottish Medical Journal 2007;52:17-9).
Patients will top up inadequate services, group claims: NHS patients in the United Kingdom will turn to the private sector as a result of cuts and longer waiting times, according to a report for the campaign group Doctors for Reform. The authors include Karol Sikora, professor of cancer medicine at Imperial College School of Medicine. He says that patients are “topping up” NHS care with private treatments in places where services are patchy or which have long waiting times. Free at the Point of Delivery: Reality or Political Mirage is available at www.doctorsforreform.com.